Recently, Yankees legends Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner passed away. Those are, at least in baseball-dom, household names. People know who they were and know what they did.
A few days before their passing on July 9, Frank Verdi, another former Yankee, perished at age 84. Verdi didn’t play long in the majors and it is likely that hardly any baseball follower—whether he is casual or hardcore—really knows who he was. Anytime the baseball family loses a member, however, it is worth noting.
Verdi spent 18 seasons playing in the minor leagues, hitting .270 with 1,832 hits, 240 doubles, 76 triples and 48 home runs in 1,923 games. His professional career commenced the year after World War II ended, 1946, and his career ended the year Lyndon Baines Johnson began expanding efforts in Vietnam, 1963. For the first 13 years of his minor league career, he played in the Yankees organization, and then he bounced around in the Kansas City Athletics, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and New York Mets systems, returning to the Yankees farm to wind down his playing career.
He spent all that time in the minors with only one game at the big league level to show for it. Indeed, Verdi was Moonlight Graham with a less cool-sounding name—on May 10, 1953, Verdi replaced Joe Collins, who had pinch-hit for Phil Rizzuto, at shortstop in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox. He was set to bat in the next inning, however he was pinch hit for by Bill Renna.
Used as a player-manager from 1961 to 1963, Verdi later skippered on-and-off in the minor leagues and independent baseball for nearly a quarter century, until 1995. He led four teams to league championships—the first in 1964 and the last in 1981—all of which came while he was in the Yankees system.
Though his big league accomplishments are sparse, his minor league feats were enough to earn him an induction into the International League Hall of Fame in 2008.
Tags: Baseball, New York Yankees